An Aug. 21 deadline has been set for the three NCAA divisions to make final decisions on whether fall sports seasons and national championships will be held this year, the Board of Governors announced on Wednesday.
The announcement included requirements for schools to establish a hotline for COVID-19 violations. In addition, all student-athletes will be allowed to opt out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns and will have their athletic scholarships honored if they choose to do so.
“Our decisions place emphasis where it belongs—on the health and safety of college athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said, per the release. “Student-athletes should never feel pressured into playing their sport if they do not believe it is safe to do so. These policies ensure they can make thoughtful, informed decisions about playing this fall.”
The NCAA's Division II and III Presidents Councils later announced the cancellation of all Division III fall championships amid the coronavirus pandemic, citing "the COVID-19 pandemic and related administrative and financial challenges."
With the NCAA's emphasis on health and safety, all division schools will be required to cover all COVID-19 related medical expenses for student-athletes to "prevent out-of-pocket expenses for college athletes and their families." Any fall sports activities must follow the NCAA's return-to-sport guidelines, which were released in July.
For fall championships to take place, at least 50% of division teams will need to participate. If 50% or more programs choose to cancel in a specific fall sport, a decision to hold the national championship at a later date will be determined based on "scientific data available at that time regarding COVID-19."
The University of Connecticut became the first FBS school to cancel its football season due to COVID-19 on Wednesday. Other schools have chosen to push their college football seasons to begin in the spring while opting for conference-only schedules.